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New research finds there may be a mental cost associated with casual sex, at least among U.S. college students, and how it manifests itself appears to be somewhat gender-specific.
The study, which was published in The Journal of Sex Research, was conducted across 30 college campuses nationwide, with more than 3,900 students surveyed.
Each of the subjects was heterosexual and the survey questions covered their history and attitudes toward both mental health and casual sex.
For the purposes of the research, “casual sex” was defined as intercourse between two people acquainted less than a week.
Researchers discovered the idea of casual sex was negatively associated with a person’s well-being and positively associated with psychological stress.
“Casual sex was associated negatively
with a person’s well-being.”
The research also revealed 11 percent of college students were found to have engaged in “casual sex” in the previous month.
While earlier research had identified a gender difference in terms of how people associate casual sex with mental health, that may not hold up in terms of actual psychological effects.
Women were found to view the practice more negatively than male counterparts, and a double standard of men being accepted more for having multiple partners may be at play here.
“It is premature to conclude that casual sexual encounters pose no harmful psychological risks for young adults,” writes lead author Dr. Melina M. Bersamin, of California State University at Sacramento.
Next, Bersamin hopes to explore whether casual sex tends to invite mental distress or if the behavior is caused as a result of riskier behavior due to mental distress.
From: The Journal of Sex Research.